The Sequel Torchlight Deserves
The original Torchlight was kind of like the first Diablo, but better. You had pets that sold your “vendor trash” for you, character classes that were more balanced, and dungeons that didn’t kill you as soon as you stepped into them. Many fans came to love Torchlight as “Diablo I done right.” Torchlight II is pretty much the same thing, but while Torchlight I remade and expanded upon the formula of Diablo I, Torchlight II remakes and expands upon Diablo II, right down to the storyline. The main characters of Torchlight I have unfortunately gone insane and have turned evil, and it’s up to you to stop them.
Much like what Diablo II was to Diablo I, Torchlight II takes you out of a single static dungeon and tasks you with roaming the countryside on your quest. You will be sent to several locales, but in the fifteen-minute demo that we were allowed to play we mostly visited outdoor fields, mountains, and neighboring towns. Yes, there is more than one town in Torchlight II, which makes the world feel much bigger than it was before.
When you start up Torchlight II, you will be given a choice of four different character classes. The first three are basic variations on your standard RPG classes. There is the Berserker, a close-range physical character; the Outlander a long-ranged character; and the Embermage, the magic user of the bunch. Even though these characters have their own unique flavor (for example, the Outlander is a gunner rather than an archer) they essentially play like the basic archetypes that we have come to expect. The Berserker character gets abilities and skills that makes him do lots of damage while being hard to kill, the Outlander gets abilities that allow him to kite enemies from a safe distance, and the Embermage is incredibly fragile but rains down horrible death upon all the enemies in the vicinity.
The newest character class, however, is the Engineer, sort of a combination of summoner classes from other RPGs. The Engineer focuses on building machines to do its bidding. I didn’t play the class directly, but I was told that things like turrets and robot minions will be part of the Engineer’s artillery. Setting traps will also be one of the Engineer’s most relied upon skills.
Each character also has a variety of customization options as well. Characters have several different outfits, colors, and faces to choose from as soon as you generate them. You can also choose from an expanded list of pets as well. Though we tried various different pets during our hands-on time with the game, we could not detect any noticeable difference between the cats, panthers, dogs, tiny dragons, and more. For now, it just appears that pet choice is a cosmetic decision.
Just like Torchlight I, Torchlight II is all about the constant gameplay. After the opening cinematic, you are thrown right into the game and given your first quest. There isn’t even much of a tutorial to speak of. The game expects you to know how to play PC RPGs, and everyone at PAX seemed to get along just fine without the game holding any hands.
OK, it did actually hold our hands a little, considering how easy it was. When we started up a game, we chose to play on the second hardest difficulty, and enemies gave us no trouble at all. I’m not even that good at these dungeon crawler-type games, and I breezed through random enemies and bosses with the greatest of ease. In a way, this makes the game more accessible to newbies, but it also causes the game to lose some of its “old school charm.”
Now, even though Torchlight I had a cartoony feel to it, Torchlight II looks a bit more realistic. Yes, the characters are still fantasy stereotypes drawn in a Warcraft-like lighthearted style, but the increased graphical fidelity just made me feel sort of detached from the characters. This is really just a personal choice here, but I enjoyed the old graphics more.
Perhaps the greatest innovation in Torchlight II is the ability for your pets to go to down and buy potions and scrolls for you. This goes even further to break up the “beat up enemies, use town portal, buy stuff, come back, do it all over again” formula that Diablo made so infamous. Instead, the only times you’ll need to visit towns will be to turn in quests or to pick up some other quests. Basically, you only need to go to town then the story says you need to. This goes a long way toward giving each town in the game its own identity as something more than a hub that you visit whenever you need to sell some loot.
Torchlight II is looking like another great dungeon crawler that should satisfy old school PC RPG fans, and I can confidently say that after having played only the first fifteen minutes. I am very excited to play more as soon as I can.
Down to the Underground
Torchlight more than exceeded its expectations. It was an indie game, yet it had a very experienced development team at its helm, ensuring a ridiculously high level of quality. It was seen by some as a Diablo clone, yet it had enough charm and character to step out of the shadow of Blizzard’s behemoth dungeon crawler. Torchlight was eventually ported to the 360 via Live Arcade, and between the PC version and the XBL port, it has sold over a million copies. It comes as no surprise, then, that a sequel is on its way.
The original game had a robust campaign, sending players deeper and deeper into an enormous dungeon based around a series of mines. However, besides the mining town of Torchlight and the dungeon itself, there were only some bite-sized dungeons to explore. This was no major shortcoming, since the main dungeon was so enormous. And the addition of these randomly generated side dungeons—as well as a dungeon creation tool—boosted the replay value almost infinitely.
However, more is often better, and Torchlight II will allow players to leave the humble town of Torchlight and explore more of the world around it. In fact, players won’t even start in Torchlight this time around, though the mining town will most likely be featured at some point during the adventure. There will be the addition of Overworld areas and Passes, as well as more quest hubs and multiple dungeons. The landscape of the game is comprised of three entire areas that together make up about a fifth of a continent called Vilderan. Torchlight II will simply be a larger experience.
Additionally, instead of the nighttime-only setting, Torchlight II will include night and day and various types of weather. Prepare to dispose of randomly generated mobs day or night, rain or shine, and even in the snow.
And the environment isn’t the only thing to be expanded in this sequel. In the original game, you could only select between three classes: Alchemist, Destroyer, and Vanquisher. Each class had a pre-built character representing it, and you were only allowed to change three things: character name, type of pet, and pet’s name. Torchlight II gives you a much deeper customization system, allowing players to make their characters unique.
Interestingly enough, the three classes from the original game won’t be playable in Torchlight II. Instead, there are four new ones to select from. Three of these classes have been announced so far: Berserker, Railman, and Outlander. The Berserker has a fast-paced, dual-wielding fighting style and has the ability to summon the spirits of various types of animals. The Railman wears a steampunk-inspired bodysuit infused with Ember, the precious ore players will remember from the first game, and wields giant two-handed weapons. The Outlander is a ranged class, and comparisons have been made to the Fremen of the Dune series. The fourth class has yet to be announced.
However, the original classes won’t be entirely absent. The characters that represented these classes in Torchlight will show up as NPCs in the sequel. It will be quite interesting to interact with characters you had played as in the first game, and this should help the two games feel more interconnected.
And it’s not just old characters that you’ll get to hang out with. Torchlight II will include multiplayer co-op. You’ll now be able to bring your friends into the game and fight alongside them. The strength and health of enemies will scale depending on how many people you bring into your world, ensuring challenges that aren’t too hard for solo players or too easy for larger groups. And since the TorchEd dungeon editor is returning, you’ll get to build your own dungeons to explore with your friends. There hasn’t been official word on how many players the game will support at a time, but any sort of multiplayer is a welcome addition to the series. The one-player-only format of the original game was one of its only drawbacks.
A very popular feature of the original Torchlight was the ability to send your pet back to town to sell your loot. This allowed for much lengthier sessions inside the dungeon, giving players an alternative to running back to town whenever their bags were full. This feature is returning, and there will be a larger variety of pets to choose from; players will no longer be limited to just dogs and cats.
Torchlight was such a great game that it never felt like it lacked features or was incomplete. However, Torchlight II expands the series by bulking up the feature list in some very welcome ways; the addition of multiplayer alone makes this a worthy upgrade. The original had the potential to steal dozens of hours of lives from its players, and we expect the sequel to steal even more. No official release date has been confirmed, but the developers seem confident we’ll see this by the end of the year. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope its sooner rather than later.